26th June 2014;
World Wide Fund for Nature – Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) is saddened by the 300kg Largetooth Sawfish (Pristis pristis) caught off Pulau Bruit, stating that the sawfish is a critically endangered species in the world.
In June 2007, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has approved trade restrictions for Sawfish because trade along with fishing pressure and habitat destruction were pushing them towards extinction.
The IUCN approved all seven Sawfish species in Appendix I banning all international commercial trade except for one species found in Australia, which was included in Appendix II (but only to allow trade in live animals to public aquaria for conservation purposes only).
Also known as carpenter sharks, Sawfish are large rays related to sharks, with distinctive toothed snouts. They are often traded for their fins, meat, unique toothed rostra (snouts), and as live animals for exhibition.
Their distinctive saw-like snouts are sold as souvenirs, curios, and ceremonial weapons, while other body parts such as skin, liver oil and bile are used in traditional medicines.
Little is still known about Sawfish, with population facts and figures being scarce, and there are very few sightings. [Source: Conservation Bite for Sawfish]
Global populations of every species of Sawfish are estimated to have fallen to less than 10% of their historic levels.
Just earlier this month, IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group (SSG) has released a global strategy to prevent extinction and promote recovery of Sawfishes.
To compliment the existing ban on commercial international sawfish trade, the strategy calls for national and regional actions to prohibit intentional killing of Sawfish, minimize mortality of accidental catches, protect sawfish habitats, and ensure effective enforcement of such safeguards.
The document also lays out actions associated with effective communications, capacity building, strategic research, and responsible husbandry, as well as fundraising to ensure implementation.
Source: Endangered Sawfish: IUCN Strategy Released as Global Protection Proposed].
The incident in Pulau Bruit, which WWF-Malaysia believes was unintentional, could have been avoided if fishermen are aware that the species is listed in the IUCN Red List, said conservation director Dr Sundari Ramakrishna.
However, she said, fishermen cannot continue to plea innocent all the time.
“They need to play their part in conservation by making it their business to fish sustainably, to know which species are common and rare, and make responsible choices by releasing live catch back into the sea.”
“WWF-Malaysia hoped that the incident in Pulau Bruit would serve as a lesson to all and moved the people from all walks of life to be more discerning when making their purchases for seafood,” she said.
When public are better informed and understand the impacts of our seafood choices, they will help shift our fisheries towards a more sustainable direction, added Dr Sundari.
The public can check out the status of fish species through WWF’s SOS Guide (Save Our Seafood) which aims at helping consumers make ocean-friendly decisions when it comes to their seafood.
The guide informs them which seafood is recommended, which to think twice about and which ones to avoid.
The guide is available in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin and can be downloaded from www.saveourseafood.my.